Teens and Driving

Getting a driver’s license has been a major rite of passage for American teens for decades. It’s a move towards increased independence and responsibility. Being able to drive means it’s far easier to get to a job, go out with friends, and attend and participate in school events.

As more and more acquaintances’ kids hit 15 and 16, I’m finding that many of them don’t seem at all ready for their children to learn to drive – regardless of the teen’s personality, skills, etc.

I find this very surprising. When I was 16, my parents were more than happy to have me start driving myself and my siblings to various events. I put in many hours behind the wheel from the time I got my learner’s permit around my 15th birthday ’til I got the coveted driver’s license. I drove on surface streets and interstates in all kinds of Georgia weather, at all times of the day and night. Yes, I learned to drive in metro Atlanta traffic, though it wasn’t QUITE as bad in 1982 as it is now. I avoided wrecks in at least two situations which my mother acknowledged would have resulted in serious accidents had she been behind the wheel—and one of those happened the day after I got the learner’s permit.

I did have the official driver’s education course offered at the local community school. It didn’t teach me anything. My parents didn’t truly expect it to teach me anything, as that was their job – I took it so we could get a discount on our auto insurance as a result.

My father had very high standards for driving, just like everything else. He was a bastard about it, but I learned those lessons very well. If we were in the car, I was the driver. Period. He already knew this: Kirkish noted how important experience behind the wheel is to teens, citing the fact that a teen’s crash risk drops by one-half after several hundred miles of driving. (From LANE RANGER: Enforcing driving laws for teens benefits us all)

I didn’t get a ticket or have a wreck ’til I was out of their house and on my own – and I haven’t had many of either, period. My driving record, even as a teen, was much better than my mother’s (who isn’t a BAD driver, just overly cautious, which is dangerous in and of itself).

My brother was also a pretty good driver My sister had MANY wrecks. She was never technically at fault, but she wasn’t a very defensive driver at all, and she was prone to eating and putting on make-up while driving – less attention on the road=more accidents. She survived and didn’t harm anyone else, and she did get better.

Most of the people I know who are so loathe to let their little darlings off the chauffeur strings were also driving at 16. They survived, and none of them have acknowledged doing anything terribly stupid.

So why are they so damned fearful? Is it an attempt to keep their children close to home and dependent? Is it yet another symptom of “the world is a worse place now” thinking? I can’t help but think that these parents are wrapping their kids up in cotton to protect them from reality.

I certainly don’t think every teen is ready to drive at 15 or 16. Some of them simply do not have the motor skills, judgment or self-control to be trusted at the wheel. That’s where parents are supposed to be involved. Presumably, they know their offspring better than anyone else, and if they have a teen who is not developmentally ready to drive, they are being responsible in keeping that child off the road.

But parents who say that their child is self-disciplined, has good motor skills, is responsible, and has shown good judgment, but still won’t permit their 15 and 16-year-olds to even learn to drive? That’s what I don’t understand. Does anyone?

FWIW, I look forward to shadowkatt learning to drive and being able to run herself all over kingdom come. Unless she proves herself unready, she’ll start driving with me as soon as she gets her learner’s permit and spend enough time behind the wheel to get those several hundred miles of experience well before she’s driving alone.

A few links I mean to check investigate later:
Road Ready Teens
Real World Driver
Ride Safe Georgia

Current Mood: 😉weird
Cyn is Rick's wife, Katie's Mom, and Esther & Oliver's Mémé. She's also a professional geek, avid reader, fledgling coder, enthusiastic gamer (TTRPGs), occasional singer, and devoted stitcher.
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